The universe is what we make of it

The Christmas tree had a pile of games under it this year. In the last dispatch, I mentioned learning about a roleplaying game called Dialect. It’s a Kickstarter project "about language and how it dies". It wasn’t under the tree (it doesn’t come out until July), but simply coming across something so creative and original sparked my interest in games all over again.

A few days down the rabbit hole that is board game reviews on the internet led me to a handful of choices, each one chosen specifically for the person. Of course, one was a word game. It’s called Paperback and it's loads of fun.

I’m fascinated by people who make games. The world of indie games overflows with originality and cleverness. Anyone working on creative projects can find inspiration there.

While learning and playing these new games, two things stood out. First, I love seeing how game makers find ways to bring equilibrium to their worlds. It must take hundreds of hours of experimentation to get it just right. When it works, when a game is challenging, surprising, and appropriately perplexing, without being discouraging, it’s amazing.

The second element is just how awkward it is to learn a new game. We invest a lot of time and energy in not being clueless in our daily lives, but for those first 30 minutes or so, that's exactly how it feels. You juggle unfamiliar pieces and cards and try to quickly digest instructions that can never answer every question. And it doesn't just need to make sense to you, but to everyone.

That initial experience is surely one of the biggest hurdles creators face. It’s also why a familiar game is usually an easier sell. Before a game can become second-nature, before you can fully embrace it, revel in its every nuance, and rave to your friends, you have to get past those 30 awkward minutes.

Searching for the perfect balance and pushing our way through the awkwardness. Not unlike life, really.